Stuart Hamblen, the Singing Cowboy


Introduction to Stuart Hamblen

Stuart Hamblen was an American country singer-songwriter, one of the country’s first singing cowboys. Hamblen rose to popularity through his series of radio programs on the US West Coast. He wrote many popular songs such as “This Ole House” (a #1 pop hit for songstress Rosemary Clooney, and also performed by Billie Anthony with Eric Jupp and His Orchestra, Jimmy Dean, Shakin’ Stevens and by Hamblen himself), and “I’m The One Who Loves You.” He also acted in films with other country and western stars Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and John Wayne. From the secular songs, he turned to writing Christian-themed tunes such as “Open Up Your Heart (And Let The Sunshine In)” and “It Is No Secret.” He performed Christian songs along with his family. A former alcoholic, Hamblen was now a staunch advocate of temperance (prohibition of alcohol). Hamblen, a Democrat, also attempted to run for a congressional seat but lost to Carl Hinshaw. He died in 1989.

Early life

Country and gospel singer-songwriter Stuart Hamblen was born Carl Stuart Hamblen in Kellyville, Texas on October 20, 1908. Hamblen was the son of a traveling Methodist preacher and minister, and also founder of the Evangelical Methodist Church denomination in Abilene, Texas.

Hamblen’s radio hosting and film career

Hamblen started to build up his career in the 1920s by being one of America’s first singing cowboys, and in the early 1930s became a host of a series of popular radio programs on the US West Coast. He held his radio career from up to the early 1950s. Hamblen also became a Western movie actor, and was usually cast as a villain. He appeared on the silver screen along with Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and John Wayne. His reputation with alcoholic drinking, moreover, served Hamblen well with his roles.

Singing, recording and songwriting career

When Decca Records’ US division was established in 1934, Hamblen was one of its first artists. He also wrote songs, where he rested much of his reputation. One of the tunes Hamblen wrote was “Texas Plains,” which was later recorded by Patsy Montana as “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” which became a hit.

Hamblen’s first charting hit single was “(I Won’t Go Huntin’ Jake) But I’ll Go Chasing Women,” which became a Top 10 country hit in 1950 (at #3). Since then he had become one of the popular country singers of his time. Hamblen wrote many other songs such as “It’s No Secret,” (a Top 10 country hit for himself at #8 in 1950, and a Top 20 pop for Jo Stafford hit in 1951), “(Remember Me) I’m the One Who Loves You” (which Hamblen himself recorded, and also covered by Ernest Tubb and Dean Martin, who turned the song into a “gold” hit), and “This Ole House,” which became a #1 US and UK hit for singer Rosemary Clooney in 1954. Hamblen also recorded his version of “This Ole House” which became a Top 40 hit (at #26) and Top 10 country hit at #2. “This Ole House” was also performed by Billie Anthony with Eric Jupp and His Orchestra, Jimmy Dean, Shakin’ Stevens

Hamblen had been a hard drinker before as well as a gambling addict. His reputation with the bottle, while serving him well in his film acting, otherwise brought him into trouble with the law. His drinking habit often led him to engage in public brawling which often sent him to jail. His popularity as a radio host, however, had his sponsors regularly bail him out of the cellar. But his vices would severely affect his health and career, and he obviously needed to have a way out.

Hamblen’s spiritual conversion and venture into gospel singing and radio hosting

After his conversion at Billy Graham’s much-publicized Los Angeles Crusade in 1949, Hamblen altogether gave up drinking and gambling, and much later on, country music altogether. This conversion as a born-again Christian led to Hamblen’s dismissal from his radio career after he refused to continue with his radio sponsor, which advertised beer products. Hamblen, by then, had become a staunch supporter of temperance, or prohibition of alcohol. He had also begun singing and writing gospel songs.

Hamblen also got his family involved in singing Christian songs. He and his family assembled their own gospel act called the Cowboy Church Sunday School which consisted of himself, his wife and their two daughters. The group was also accompanied by their daughters’ two friends. In 1955 Hamblen and his family recorded an would-be unexpected hit single “Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sunshine In)” which crossed over to the Top 10 pop chart. He also hosted a radio program in Los Angeles, called The Cowboy Church of the Air.

Hamblen, who was a Democrat, also attempted to run for a congressional seat but lost to Carl Hinshaw. He died of brain cancer on March 8, 1989 of brain cancer in Santa Monica, California, aged 80 years old.

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